Why Kindness Multiplies, Joy Rebounds, and Generosity Goes Viral

Last week, I wrote about a pub in Colorado, where you don’t have to pay your tab when you eat. If you don’t have cash, they send you home with a Karma Envelope, and they trust you’ll send your payment in when you can. Because they believe kindness multiplies, joy rebounds, community is contagious, and generosity goes viral.

They claim a 97% collection rate via Karma Envelopes.

Joy rebounds, indeed.


Photo Credit: greenplasticamy via Compfight cc

Readers around the world wrote in, saying the post made their day and restored some of their hope for humanity. The Channel 9 News in Denver called to ask for details about the story, and I did an interview with a radio station in Montreal. But my favorite part of the week, by far, was hearing about other businesses around the world who operate on the assumption there is something good at the center of people.

Here are just a few:

There’s a sandwich bar in Basel, Switzerland that works on the honor system—you eat as much as you want and declare at the register how much you ate. About a decade ago, the owner ran an ad in the local paper, granting “amnesty” to everyone who “forgot” to pay for sandwiches when they were young and broke. And he offered this: if you now wanted to settle your tab, you could contribute anonymously to a fund, and the money was then donated to a local association for the blind.

The sandwich bar donated a lot of money.

Because kindness multiplies.

There’s a pizza place in Philadelphia where patrons are feeding the homeless. When a customer buys a slice for a dollar, they can pay another dollar to buy a slice for a homeless person. Then, they’re given a sticky note on which to write an encouraging message, and they stick it to the wall. When a hungry person enters the restaurant, he or she pulls off a note and eats for free. The walls are filled with multi-colored notes—encouragement from customers with money, and the responses of gratitude from the homeless.

Because community is contagious.

There’s a small general store in Castell, Texas, where strangers can pay by cash, credit card, check, or by “mailing them a check.” The owner of the store says the collection rate on the last option is 100%.

Because generosity goes viral.

There’s a resort in the Lake of the Ozarks where guests leave payments in a bucket at the store and the fishing hut. When asked why he runs his business that way, he replied, “I believe that if you trust people, they make themselves trustworthy. I’ve made enough to live on every year, so it must work.”

There’s a vegetarian restaurant in Australia where guests “contribute what they feel their meal and experience is worth, according to their own financial ability.” Why do they run a business this way, and why is it thriving? Because they “believe in the power of humanity to create stupendous change.”

Why did my story about the pub in Colorado strike such a nerve? Because we all need to be reminded of what’s underneath our underneath. What I mean is, we all walk around with our personas in place, looking like we’ve got it mostly together and doing and saying what we’re supposed to do and say. But we all know there’s a shadow underneath our façade. It’s the darkness in us. The things we do when no one is looking, and the things we think that we would never tell anyone.

But there is something underneath the underneath.

There is a good and beautiful thing at the center of each of us. Call it your true self or your spirit or your soul or whatever. But it’s there. And when we believe in it, it comes to life and it comes to the surface. Our façade dissolves and love solidifies.

Why does joy rebound?

Joy rebounds because it is always humming at the center of all of us.

Underneath the underneath.

That is very good news, and it is very good business, too.

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Please Note: Our second series of Courtyard Conversations—“Hanging in the Balance: How to Live With a True Self and a False Self”—will resume this weekend, April 26, at 2pm CDT. If you haven’t joined us before, this will be a great time to begin enjoying the warmth and wisdom of this welcoming community! To find out more about it, and to find out how to join the Conversation, click here.


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Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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22 thoughts on “Why Kindness Multiplies, Joy Rebounds, and Generosity Goes Viral

  1. What wonderful affirmations that we remain worth our best efforts. And how delightfully, amazingly, and lovingly simple we can be in living up to others’ good expectations of us.

  2. It deserved to go virile… and thanks for being the messenger, Kelley. It’s a difficult journey sometimes when we have to look beneath all the layers, of ourselves and others who are a part of life… we are human, after all… not perfect, but that’s not bad… awareness is half the battle to being more of this life, giving more…. loving more… to trust even when trust isn’t there… to see the good and love that we all desire underneath it all. Thanks again for reaffirming my belief that despite what our “leaders” say is a world of threat and annihilation, that the real “leaders” are those of us who choose to find our common humanity.

    • “The real leaders are those of us who choose to find our common humanity.” I’ll toast to that, David.

  3. Thanks for your encouraging post. I wanted to share a simple idea that I recently began doing. Because I’ve hit the magical age to be able to join AARP, I discovered that when I purchase a large tea or coffee at my local Dunkin’ Donuts, I receive a free donut of my choice. After doing so every day for a week or so on my way to work, I began to imagine what I might look like at the end of the year after eating 260 (approx.) donuts.

    That said, after I purchase my drink at the drive-thru I’ve asked the clerk to make my free donut available to the car behind me. Don’t know if they accept or decline because I usually don’t hang around for a response. But, my hope is that it puts a smile on someone’s face, brightens their day, and hey… they get the calories as an added bonus.

    This is a simple way to pay it forward and I believe I receive more from the effort than the donut-ee! Have a great day Kelly.

    • Rick, this is a great idea and a beautiful example of how kindness rebounds without even receiving anything in return, because giving is a gift in itself. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. This is amazing. So happy to read something like this – it gave me hope in humanity on this dreary Wednesday morning. I am adding it to a new hash-tag…. #feelgoodwednesday We should be sharing good reads like this more often. Thank you.

  5. I read which resonates with this in ways, we are a soul and have a body (and some who trust/call that center, the inside our inside are not disappointed).

  6. I can always count on you to inspire my day and share some food for my soul. I am so grateful for what you share and your light. Thank you.

    • Great idea, Denise; please check back in as you go forward through you’re year of 50 things!

  7. Social entrepreneurism is on the rise. I love this idea…I recently began a division of my very successful Network Marketing business called Project Feed It Forward. I am teaching people how to be in the business of Feeding people…..Finding a social issue, addressing it, sharing how you can have an impact and teaching people how to create Divine compensation is certainly underneath the underneath!

  8. Thanks so much for such a great post today. I have been following you for about a year or so, and I look forward to your emails arriving, and even if it takes me a week I still read every one. You know what…nearly every time they seem to match something going on in my life (especially ‘Empathy fails…’ – good timing on that one).
    So from all the way over in New Zealand – you’re reaching a long way. Thank you every time.

    • Thanks for reaching out from New Zealand, Toni. This gives me great encouragement that whatever I’m writing in a given week will find a place to resonate. Thank you!

  9. “Underneath the underneath” We aren’t as bad as we think we are, eh? Great topic, thanks for sharing it with us

  10. Found this piece inspiring and moving. We need more writers to be sharing stories like this to make us and the world a better place. Thanks!

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